Sunday 25 June 2017

Sophie family in plea for urgency as case delayed

Ian Bailey outside the Supreme Court yesterday
Ian Bailey outside the Supreme Court yesterday

Aoife Finneran and Ralph Riegel

THE family of slain film-maker Sophie Toscan du Plantier have expressed their hope that the courts will treat a landmark extradition case as a priority.

But they are concerned that Ian Bailey's bid to avoid extradition to France over the 1996 death of Ms du Plantier could drag on for months.

Mr Bailey's attempt to have his appeal against extradition reheard in the High Court will not now be considered by the Supreme Court until January.

The application was due to be heard today but yesterday lawyers for the State sought more time, saying they were not yet ready to proceed.

The matter will not be heard until January 13 -- three days before a full scheduled hearing of Mr Bailey's extradition appeal by five Supreme Court judges.

And the hearing of the appeal on January 16 by the Supreme Court is entirely dependent on whether the case is sent back to the High Court for possible re-hearing.

Mr Bailey, a Manchester-born former journalist who is now a law student, is wanted for questioning and possible trial by French magistrate Patrick Gachon in connection with the death of Ms du Plantier.

Her body was discovered at the foot of a laneway leading to her isolated holiday home at Toormore outside Schull in west Cork on December 23, 1996.

Alain Spilliaert, lawyer for Ms du Plantier's parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, said the family wanted the matter brought to a conclusion.

"What is important for us is that the chief justice again said this was an urgent matter. Our fear was that the hearing could have been postponed for a very long time," he said.

Mr Spilliaert said the family were still hopeful that the Supreme Court hearing of the case would take place, as originally indicated, on January 16.

Next April marks the second anniversary of the Paris-based judge, Patrick Gachon, first seeking a European Arrest Warrant for Mr Bailey.

Ms du Plantier's parents plan to travel to west Cork on January 10 with her aunt, Marie-Madeline Opalka, to mark the 15th anniversary of her death.

Yesterday, the Chief Justice told lawyers for both sides: "It is very important that all papers are lodged and the case becomes fully ready as soon as possible."

Anniversary

Nobody has ever been charged with the killing and the garda murder probe, one of the biggest in the history of the State, was hampered by the lack of eyewitnesses, the failure to recover the murder weapon and the total absence of any DNA or forensic evidence.

Mr Bailey has always denied any involvement in the crime and claimed that efforts were made to frame him.

He was arrested twice by investigating gardai but released without charge on both occasions. The Director of Public Prosecutions found no basis to charge him.

In March, the High Court ruled against Mr Bailey's challenge to the warrant for his extradition. He has vowed to fight the extradition to the European Court of Justice, if necessary.

Irish Independent

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